“There is an immeasurable difference between late and too late.” ~ Og Mandino**
Syzygy is coming. The alignment of the first four planets in our solar system. It’s got a lot of people in an uproar. A lot of folks are saying that the world is going to end. This week. Could it be the Rapture? The second coming? The apocalypse? I don’t purport to know the answer to this. I suppose that anything is possible.
Okay, so the world is not going to end. In reality, all of the believers will be ushered up to heaven, to sit at the right hand of God for all eternity. The rest of us, heathen Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Taoists, atheists and the like, will be stuck here in an earthbound purgatory, counting down to October 21 and the bitter end. If I only have five months left I should probably go back being a carnivore, right?
A lot of people are ridiculing the syzygists (I love that word), calling them all sorts of names. Quite correctly, they are using the event as an excuse to party. I approve of this message. I have two syzygy parties to attend this weekend. I view this as covering my bases. If the world ends, I’ll go out with my friends. If the world survives, then we’ll have something to celebrate the next day too. At any rate, the event got me to reflecting on the fragility of life and the human fiber that can band us together or rip us apart.
It has been proven that human contact is one of the most important tools in keeping us happy and healthy. If a baby is born into this world and isolated from human contact, the baby will die. We cannot be all that we can be without contact with others. Therefore, it is tantamount not only to nurture the relationships that we do have, but to reach out to others who we come into contact with. I’m not saying that you have to become best buds with mechanic at the service station, the bank teller or the pizza delivery guy. But just because you’re never going to socialize with someone doesn’t mean that you have an excuse to be rude to them.
It happens to me all the time. In my job I meet as many as fifty new people a night. Some of them would be my friends if we lived next door to each other or hung out at the same tavern. Others are socially or ideologically incompatible on a base level. It would be very easy to discount or dismiss them at a glance. Many times I receive this treatment from them. But I make it a point to treat everyone the same way, I treat them ‘as if” we’re going to be best friends some day. I try to get a smile from every single one of them.
I know what you’re thinking. “But Brother T, it’s your job to be nice to all those people.” Or, “Brother T, you are nice to everyone.” Not necessarily and not for all time. I have been a dick in the past and no matter how much I try to suppress it, every once in a while it still happens. I am not perfect and I don’t expect you to be either (though you probably are). But I certainly am not.
I’ve had a long-standing issue with perfection. I expected to be perfect. And I expected you to live up to that standard as well. This is best illustrated by a number of people who I have left along the side of the road during my long journey. I have given up on friendships for the most trivial of reasons. A number of times I have given up out of shame. Other times it was imagined slights that any rational person would laugh off and move on. Shame still prevents me from picking up the phone and calling them to apologize. In this regard, I am still very juvenile.
But my biggest regret of all is my father. It seems as if we’ve always been out of sync. Our anxiety with each other goes back almost to the beginning. I have (too) infrequently reached out to him over the years, only to be pushed away by something that he did or didn’t do. More often than not it was either my fault or my bad interpretation. Nonetheless, we are still off-kilter. This is my reminder to myself to keep working at it until I fix it. Indeed, to keep working to repair all of the old friends who are still salvageable. And no, I’m not going to pull a John Cusack from High Fidelity and contact all of my exes from across the years. Those boats have surely left the dock.
“Terry, I really hope that you don’t grow old alone.**”
Tell me about it. I’ve been doing a damn good job of growing old alone. Just because I’m good at it doesn’t make it all better. I guess the point is that I have to make an effort to connect with the people who matter. It doesn’t cost a dime to say, “I love you.” When I call you brother or sister, it means that I want you to be in my life until eternity, even if the syzygy doesn’t crack the world in half and bring out the four horsemen of the apocalypse. When I say “I love you,” it doesn’t mean I want to sleep with you or have your babies, unless of course that’s what you want, but maybe we should go out on a date first.
So this goes out to all my friends, Romans and country(wo)men. I wish you glad tidings on the eve of the syzygy. I hope that you get all that you want out of the event. I hope we get a chance to hang out before the bitter end. And by the way, I love you.
* Og Mandino – American author and psychologist
** Mike Burns – back at the old Sawdust Lane apartment, 1995